WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. authorities brought charges Monday against a British man they contend conspired with admitted al-Qaida member Richard Reid to use shoe bombs to blow up planes in midair.
A seven-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed in Boston charges Saajid Badat, 25, with attempted murder, trying to destroy an aircraft and other charges related to the alleged conspiracy with Reid, who also is a British citizen and Muslim convert.
Reid's attempt to blow up an American Airlines Paris-to-Miami flight on Dec. 22, 2001, was thwarted by attendants and passengers after he tried to light a fuse leading to the concealed plastic explosives in his sneakers.
The indictment says Badat "admitted that he was asked to conduct a shoe bombing like Reid" when he was arrested in Britain last November. Bomb components similar to Reid's - including an explosive compound known as TATP - were found at his home, the indictment said.
"The alert passengers and crew of Flight 63 prevented Richard Reid from carrying out his deadly mission," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "The resulting investigation led us and our British colleagues to Badat."
The indictment indicates Badat was assisting Reid while plotting his own separate attack. Like Reid on another date, he went to the British Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 11, 2001, falsely claiming his passport had been stolen and getting a replacement. Badat allegedly got his "custom-made" shoe bombs in Afghanistan, where al-Qaida had training camps.
Badat, a British citizen, pleaded innocent last month to similar British charges and faces trial there beginning Feb. 28. Ashcroft said the United States has "a keen interest" in seeking Badat's eventual extradition to stand trial in this country but also recognized the British intend to put him on trial first.
Reid is serving a life prison sentence in the United States after pleading guilty in Boston federal court to the airline bomb plot. The flight, carrying 184 passengers and 14 crew members, was diverted to Boston after Reid was subdued. No one was hurt.
Badat also faces a potential life sentence if convicted on all U.S. charges.
The grand jury returned the indictment Sept. 1 but it was kept under seal for more than a month. Democrats have accused President Bush of using the war on terror to boost his re-election campaign - including the timing of Justice Department terrorism cases - but Ashcroft rejected that.
The "sole consideration," Ashcroft told a news conference Monday, is to "maximize the security and safety of America."
After Badat's arrest, the Homeland Security Department and FBI each issued warnings that al-Qaida remained interested in using personal items to bomb aircraft. It is now commonplace for U.S. travelers to remove their shoes for screening before boarding a commercial flight.
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